Memphis, Tennessee: From Barbecue to Beale Street
By Val Kahl
The largest city in Tennessee, Memphis is a real must-see destination for lovers of Elvis, music history and barbecue. This is the birthplace for some of the biggest artists in blues and rock music, and Memphis continues to seduce travellers with its culinary specialties and, of course, its rhythm!
Memphis’ Culinary Scene: Barbecue and Beyond
New chefs are rising in Memphis with sophisticated nouvelle cuisine. Barbecue is the star of the town, and there is no choice but to try them all out.
One of the most famous barbecue restaurants in all of Memphis, which boasts Princes Harry and William as recent guests, is Charles Vergo’s Rendezvous Ribs. You’ll have to go down a dark alley to enjoy some of the best dry-rubbed ribs you’ll ever taste. Start out at the bar upstairs and then enjoy a meal in the dining room.
My insider´s tip is Restaurant Iris, led by multi-award-winning chef Kelly English, who creates his own twist on Southern food. I was treated to their best specialties, with a fantastic wine list in a cosy villa. Not just an experience, but a real journey – a warm atmosphere in a unique setting.
If it’s a casual local favourite you’re looking for, be sure to try Gus’ World Famous Fried Chicken. The original restaurant is in Mason, outside of Memphis, but there are locations in the big city – this restaurant has become locally famous in its 60 years in business. There is always a line for the delicious fried chicken. I loved that the menu didn’t complicate things, either. Just fried chicken and a few side dishes.
Beale Street: Heart of Evening Activities
At the end of the day, Beale Street is where the action begins. It is a mythical street where you’ll hear almost every kind of music you can imagine: blues, rock, soul, even side-street performers that haven’t hit the big time (yet). Everywhere you go, you’ll hear the sounds and the soul of what has made Memphis so famous.
Beale Street is also a central place for shops, barbecue restaurants, neon lights and the famous street acrobats known as the Beale Street Flippers. The street is blocked off in the evening to vehicle traffic, so it is a pedestrian-friendly experience. I especially enjoyed BB King’s for a fun ambiance and drinks, but you’ll always find a great time anywhere on this famous strip in Memphis. Take a seat on one of the terrace rooftops, watch the diverse and artistic crowd, and savour the scene.
To conclude my trip, I embarked on a riverboat tour of the Mississippi River. Listening to the guide’s stories of the legendary waterway, I let myself travel back in time and get inspired by the city landscape, thinking about my next visit to Memphis.